Official Fedora Companion

Official Fedora Companion

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by Nicholas Petreley, Red Hat Society Staff

  • Linux guru Nick Petreley demystifies the most powerful features of Fedora, the new Linux operating system from Red Hat
  • The book is tailored for new users and people upgrading from previous Red Hat versions
  • Cuts through technical jargon with a concise, friendly approach and offers invaluable insider tips that enable users to get up and running fast with
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  • Linux guru Nick Petreley demystifies the most powerful features of Fedora, the new Linux operating system from Red Hat
  • The book is tailored for new users and people upgrading from previous Red Hat versions
  • Cuts through technical jargon with a concise, friendly approach and offers invaluable insider tips that enable users to get up and running fast with Fedora
  • Features step-by-step guidance to help readers to use and customize the friendly graphical Bluecurve desktop; get online with instant messaging, e-mail and a favorite browser; create personal audio and data CD-ROMs; and get started with the OpenOffice office productivity suite
  • Includes essential security tips and all the basic configuration details for networks, firewalls, users, and printers
  • Two CD-ROMs include Red Hat's new personal edition distribution known as Fedora

Copyright © 2004 by Red Hat, Inc. Material may be distributed only subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License, V1.0 or later (the latest version is presently available at

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Official Fedora Companion

Your Guide to the Fedora Project
By Nicholas Petreley

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-5836-6

Chapter One

Getting Started

You'll find that Fedora is remarkably friendly and easy to use for work, play, or for just surfing the Internet. This chapter helps you to get logged in and use the friendly Fedora Bluecurve desktop and demonstrates how to log out and shut down the computer. You also learn how to configure the date, time, and your time zone, how to set up any printer you may have connected to your computer, and how to get your computer connected to the Internet.

Even if you are eager and able to start using the many powerful applications with little or no help, please take the time to familiarize yourself with the terms and important concepts contained in this chapter, especially the information about users and security in the section "Before You Log In."

Introductory Terms

When you learn about a new operating system, you also need to learn new terminology. Here are a few basic terms you should learn to use Fedora. You will see these terms often throughout this book:

* Graphical User Interface (GUI)-A screen with icons, menus, and panels for the user to click on to initiate actions such as starting applications and opening files.

* Point and click-You move the mouse to point to something on the screen, and then click one of the mouse buttons to perform a task. By default, you click the left mouse button to do most tasks, but very often you can get a custom menu of options when you click the right mouse button.

* Double-click-Click the left mouse button twice in succession, rapidly, usually something you do to an icon (see the following entry) to launch an application or perform another important action. You can customize your Fedora to make this action easier if this is difficult for you.

* Icons-Small images representing an application, folder, shortcut, or system resource (such as a floppy drive) to which you point with the mouse and click or double-click to activate. Launcher icons usually refer to application shortcuts.

* Graphical desktop environment-The most visible area of a GUI. The desktop is where your user Home and Start Here launcher icons are located. You can configure the desktop to have special background colors and pictures to add a personal touch to your desktop.

* GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment)-The default graphical desktop environment for Fedora.

* KDE (The K Desktop Environment)-A graphical desktop environment that is similar to GNOME, also available in Fedora.

* Bluecurve-A Fedora exclusive custom version of GNOME and KDE that gives the two desktops a more consistent look and feel. Bluecurve makes both GNOME and KDE easier to use and makes it easy to switch from one to the other.

* Panel-A desktop toolbar, usually located across the bottom of the screen. The Panel for GNOME contains the GNOME Menu button and shortcut icons to start commonly used programs (see Figure 1-1). It can be customized by the user.

* Privileges or rights-Linux either allows you to do a task or prohibits you from doing a task depending on the privileges or rights you have as a user. If you log in as the root user (see the definition for root that follows), you are what is called a superuser, and have full privileges. You can do anything you want with Fedora, including system administration or accidental permanent damage. Normal user accounts have enough privileges to do everything the average user wishes to do, but not enough privileges to damage the system either intentionally or accidentally.

* Root-The root user account is a superuser account, one with special privileges to access virtually all the resources on your Fedora system. You created this account during installation. This account is special because you must be logged in as root to accomplish certain system administration tasks. Root is the most powerful user on the system, but also the most dangerous, since the root user has unrestricted abilities.

* User-User accounts are created so that typical user tasks can be done without using the root account. When you log in with a user account, you cannot perform certain tasks such as delete system files. This is a good thing! When you log in with a normal user account, you can do all the work you need while minimizing the chance of permanently damaging your Fedora installation or its applications.

* X or X Window System-These terms refer to the GUI environments. If you are "in X" or "running X," you are working in a GUI rather than a console environment.

* RPM-RPM stands for RPM Package Manager and is how Red Hat builds and delivers its software files. An RPM is a software package file you can install on your Fedora computer.

* Shell prompt-A command-line interface (similar to an MS-DOS screen) between the user and the operating system. The shell interprets commands entered by the user and passes them on to the operating system.

* Command line-The place in the shell prompt where commands are typed.

* Command-An instruction given to the computer, most often something you type at the keyboard.

* Man page and info page-Man (short for manual) and info pages give detailed information about a command or file (man pages tend to be brief and provide less explanation than info pages). To read the man page for the su command, for example, type man ls at a shell prompt (or type info ls for the info page, or pinfo ls (pinfo is a friendlier version of info)). To close one of these pages, press q.

* su <user> and su -<user>-The su <user> (switch to the user specified by <user>) command gives you instant access to other accounts on your system without having to log out and then log in as the other user. One generally uses the command su - otheruser (substitute the name of the user for otheruser), because the dash (-) tells the system to the default settings for that other user.

* su and su-When you type su by itself (or su - by itself), it asks you for the root password and then switches you to your root account. This gives an experienced administrator access to important system files without having to log out and then log in again as root. But it can also be dangerous because root has the power to do permanent damage to the system, so use caution when you are logged in as root.

Before You Log In

You can all but eliminate the risk of serious accidental or malicious damage to your system by taking the time to understand the concepts in this section and apply the tips. It is especially important to consider our advice if you intend to connect your Fedora system to the Internet, or if you use your computer in any environment where others can get physical access to your workspace or computer. So read on before you log in to your Fedora system the first time.

Why Create a User Account?

You should create at least one user account during installation and then log in as that user whenever you want to use Fedora. If you did not create a user account during installation, we urge you to read through this section and then follow the instructions in "Creating a User Account" later in the chapter.

Here is why. As stated in the definition for privileges or rights earlier in the chapter, Linux either allows you to do a task or prohibits you from doing a task depending on the privileges or rights you have as a user. A regular user can do everything one would normally want to do with Fedora. The root user has all privileges and is not restricted from any tasks, even damaging ones. This should be reason enough to create a user account and avoid routinely logging in and using the system as the root user.

The only time you really need to have root privileges is to make an important system-wide change, such as setting the time, adding a printer, or configuring your system to use certain hardware you might replace or install. Even then, you can log in as a normal user, and when you attempt to perform one of these special tasks (such as setting the time, date, and time zone, as described later in this chapter), the system will prompt you for the root password for that one special task. You remain logged in as a normal user by default, even though you have root privileges to finish the specific task at hand, such as adjusting the system date and time.

Your Programs Have Rights, Too

Accidental damage is not the only risk. Every application you launch when you are logged in as the root user has the same privileges as the root user. So when you use Fedora logged in as root, not only do you have the rights necessary to wipe out every file on your system, so does your email program, browser, instant messenger, word processor, and all the other programs you use. Granted, the applications you get with Fedora are specifically designed to protect you from maliciously designed web pages or dangerous emails that wreak havoc on other operating systems, so all your programs should be safe. But if you follow our advice to create and use a normal user account, your system will be safe even if a malicious programmer someday finds and exploits a weakness in one of the applications you use.

More Tips for the Justifiably Paranoid

Whenever you create an account, you need to choose a password for that account. If you want your account to be secure (and most users will especially want their root account to be secure), be sure to choose a password nobody is likely to guess.

Then don't give that password away-and there are many ways to give it away of which you may be unaware.

The movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day includes a scene where the Terminator robot (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) steals a station wagon by ripping out a piece of the steering column with a powerful servo-controlled hand. John Connor, the young whiz kid in the film (played by actor Edward Furlong) seizes the opportunity to teach the Terminator a basic lesson in security. He flips down the sun visor, catches the station wagon's keys in midair as they drop from where the owner naively stowed them, and asks the robot, "Are we learning yet?" What you need to learn from this story is this: It doesn't matter how hard it is to guess your password if you write it down and tape it under your desk or to the bottom of your keyboard. If you don't want someone to know your password, don't place a copy of it anywhere near your work area, no matter how ingenious you think your hiding place may be. If you really want your password to be secure, don't use as your password the model number of your monitor, the serial number on your keyboard, or anything else you can read off a poster, sign, or item attached to or close to your desk. There may not be many Terminator robots with the brute force to crack a password as cryptic as the serial number of your mouse, but there are plenty of John Connors out there who can flip over your mouse and read the serial number just as easily as one can flip down a sun visor and grab your keys.

Creating a User Account

When you first booted Fedora after you finished the installation, you were given the opportunity to create a user account. If you bypassed that step, shame on you. If you created a user account during this part of the installation process, congratulations, you did the right thing! You can skip this section and go to the section entitled "Logging In."

If you did not create at least one user account (not including the root account), you should do so now. This is one time you will have to log in as the root user, because that is the only way to create a normal user account if you have no normal user accounts on your system.


We cannot stress this point enough: You should avoid working in the root account unless you absolutely have to, so create a user account and log in using that account as your default means of using Fedora.

To create a user account, follow these steps:

1. At the login screen (see Figure 1-2), type the username root and press Enter. You should be prompted with a similar screen, this time for the password (see Figure 1-3). Type in the password you chose when you created the root user during installation and press Enter.

2. Click the Main Menu button [right arrow] System Settings [right arrow] Users and Groups. The window shown in Figure 1-4 appears, although it won't have the sample user information listed. Click Add User in the toolbar near the top of the window, on the left.

3. In the Create New User dialog box (see Figure 1-5), enter a username (this can be an abbreviation or nickname-our sample is carlotta, the first name of the sample user). Enter the full name of the user for whom this account is being created. Enter a password (which you will enter a second time for verification). For most users, you can accept the default settings that appear automatically for the other configuration options. Click OK. The new user should appear in the user list.

You are done creating a user account. You can close the Fedora User Manager window if you wish. Now click the Main Menu button [right arrow] Log Out.

Logging In

When you log in, you are introducing yourself to the system (also called authentication). If you type the wrong username or password, you will not be allowed access to your system until you provide the proper username or password.

During installation, if you selected graphical as the login type, you will see a graphical login screen like the one in Figure 1-6. Our sample machine name is Toluca, but unless you have chosen to give your machine its own hostname, which is primarily used in a network setting, your machine name will probably be localhost.


Because your Fedora system creates the root account during installation, some new users are tempted to use only this account for all of their activities and log in as root now and in the future. This is a dangerous idea, because the root account is allowed to do anything on the system. The section earlier in the chapter "Before You Log In" explains why this is so important. It is better to follow the instructions in the "Creating a User Account" section and use that account on a regular basis.


Excerpted from Official Fedora Companion by Nicholas Petreley Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Nick Petreley (Kansas City, MO) is the founding editor of LinuxWorld magazine, helped establish LinuxWorld Expo, created and first hosted the Golden Penguin Bowl keynote quiz show for the Expo, and is now the Linux analyst for Evans Data Corporation and founding editor of He was one of the first journalists to write about Linux, and Red Hat's own founder Bob Young credits Nicholas as a major force behind making the current popularity of Linux possible.

Contributors from the Red Hat Press Documentation Team: Tammy Fox, John Ha, Sandra A. Moore

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Official Fedora Companion 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently bought this book about a week ago and the content inside is really upfront and easy to understand. The content is simple like a Microsoft Windows manual, only with the extra things you need. It is excellent for the first time user to navigate around the OS and become comfortable with it. This book should cover both Fedora Core 1 and 2 since there were only updates to the kernel and some drivers, but the rest of it is just a change in the name. To get into more depth, try Red Hat Linux Fedora unleashed: 1nQV4Vb&isbn=0672326299&itm=1 and that will cover more network security issues, system backup operations, using tar, and more. For great help, go to ! GREAT BOOK FOR BEGINNERS.